Heathrow Express

Airport rail link in England

Heathrow Express
EMU 387 132.jpg
Heathrow Express Class 387 at London Paddington in 2021
Franchise(s)Open access operator
Not subject to franchising
23 June 1998 – 2028[2]
Main route(s)London Paddington – Heathrow Airport
Other route(s)None
Fleet size12 Class 387
Stations called at3
Stations operated4
Parent companyHeathrow Airport Holdings
Reporting markHX[1]
Websitewww.heathrowexpress.com Edit this at Wikidata
  • v
  • t
  • e
Heathrow area rail services
from Paddington
Elizabeth line via Whitechapel
Paddington Bakerloo Line Circle line (London Underground) District Line Hammersmith & City Line Elizabeth Line Heathrow Express National Rail
opens November 2022
Heathrow Express
Elizabeth line
Old Oak Common
Acton Main Line Elizabeth Line
Ealing Broadway Central line (London Underground) District Line Elizabeth Line National Rail
West Ealing Elizabeth Line Greenford line
Hanwell Elizabeth Line
Southall Elizabeth Line National Rail
Hayes & Harlington Elizabeth Line National Rail
Airport Junction
Hatton Cross Piccadilly Line
Heathrow Junction closed 1998
Airport interchange Heathrow Airport:
Terminal 4
Piccadilly Line Airport interchange
Terminal 4
Elizabeth Line Airport interchange
Terminals 2 & 3 Piccadilly Line BSicon BUS.svg Airport interchange
Terminals 2 & 3 Elizabeth Line Heathrow Express BSicon BUS.svg Airport interchange
Terminal 5 Piccadilly Line Elizabeth Line Heathrow Express BSicon BUS.svg Airport interchange

Heathrow Express is a high-frequency airport rail link operating between London Heathrow Airport and London Paddington. Opened in 1998, trains run non-stop, with a journey time of 15 minutes. The service is operated jointly by Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express Operating Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heathrow Airport Holdings. A slower (but cheaper) journey from Heathrow Airport to central London is provided by the Elizabeth line.


Heathrow Express was planned as a joint venture between the British Airports Authority (BAA) and British Rail, but was taken over fully by the former following the privatisation of British Rail.[3] Construction began in 1993. The principal works were two 6.8 kilometres (4.2 mi) single-bore tunnels (including eight escape shafts) and underground stations at Heathrow Central and Terminal 4. Electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) between Paddington and Airport Junction, where the new line diverged from the GWML, was also required. A flying junction known as Stockley Flyover was constructed to connect the tunnel to the GWML fast lines. During construction, a notable tunnel collapse occurred including the subsidence of a surface building, leading to a 6 month delay in opening and additional costs of around £150m.[4]

Beginning in January 1998, an interim service called Heathrow FastTrain ran to a temporary station called Heathrow Junction, where a coach took passengers the rest of the way.[5] Full service to Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 opened on 23 June 1998, with an opening by Prime Minister Tony Blair.[6]

From 1999 to 2003, a check-in service was provided at Paddington, allowing Heathrow Express passengers to check in and drop off their luggage prior to flights, which was similar to the service currently provided on Hong Kong's Airport Express. Checked baggage was transported to the airport by using the luggage space at the westbound first carriage. This service was withdrawn due to low usage and high cost of operation.[7][8]

In June 2005, Heathrow Express began jointly providing a new Heathrow Connect service, which saw a new twice-hourly stopping service on the same route between Paddington and Heathrow using Class 360 EMUs from the Siemens Desiro family. Heathrow Airport Holdings had provided the on-board staff through Heathrow Express as part of the contract.[9] This continued until May 2018, which saw Heathrow Connect absorbed into TfL Rail ahead of the new Crossrail project.[10] In May 2022, TfL Rail services were rebranded as the Elizabeth line, with through trains to run through central London from November 2022.[11] Heathrow Express services will continue to terminate at London Paddington.[11]

In August 2018, Great Western Railway (GWR) took over the operation of Heathrow Express as part of a new management contract.[12] Heathrow Airport continues to be responsible for commercial aspects of the service, including marketing, ticket pricing and revenue management, while GWR are now responsible for operations.[13][14]


Route tph Intermediate stops
London PaddingtonHeathrow Terminal 5 4 Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3

Trains depart Paddington every 15 minutes from 05:10 (06:10 on Sunday) until 23:25,[15] and there is a similar quarter-hourly service in the return direction. At Paddington they use dedicated platforms 6 and 7, although on occasions other platforms are used. There are two stops at Heathrow: Heathrow Central, serving Terminals 2 and 3 (journey time from Paddington 15 minutes); and Heathrow Terminal 5 (journey time 21 minutes), platforms 3 and 4. Until the opening of Terminal 5 on 27 March 2008, Heathrow Express terminated at Heathrow Terminal 4. In 2010, Heathrow Express introduced a dedicated shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 that would be timed to connect with the main Heathrow Express service to/from Terminal 5 to improve connections between the terminals.[16]

Heathrow Express has been generally well received, not least because steps were taken to reduce the environmental impact, including disguising ventilation shafts as barns.[6]

On board

Interior of a Heathrow Express Class 387

Trains offer a choice of two classes of travel, express class which corresponds to standard class, and "business first" class which corresponds to first class. Both classes have large luggage storage spaces and complimentary WiFi.[17] First class offers wider seats and a table at every seat.[18]

Children under 16 travel free of charge with a fare-paying adult; unaccompanied children may travel free of charge in express class only with proof of a same-day flight to or from Heathrow.[19]


The service runs along Network Rail's Great Western Main Line from Paddington to Airport Junction. The line from Airport Junction to the airport terminals is owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings but maintained by Network Rail. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC overhead and uses Automatic Train Protection (ATP) and European Train Control System (ETCS). The controlling signal centre for the entire route is the Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC) in Didcot.


Station Image Time
London Paddington Paddington station MMB 46 332002.jpg 0 mins
Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 Heathrow Express P1180327.jpg 15 mins
Heathrow Terminal 5 Heathrow T5 station AB.JPG 21 mins

Rolling stock

Current fleet

From 29 December 2020, the first of twelve Class 387 units from the Bombardier Electrostar family began service with Heathrow Express, having replaced the Class 332 fleet.[20] The units transferred from Great Western Railway who are also responsible for their maintenance and operation within Heathrow Express.[13] The units underwent modifications prior to their introduction on Heathrow Express which included the fitting of USB power sockets, extra luggage space, work tables, on-board WiFi and HD TVs. A new Business First cabin was also included in a 2+1 configuration with reclining seats.[21]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes Built
 mph   km/h 
387 Electrostar Railways of Great Britain 198.jpg EMU 110 177 12 4 London PaddingtonHeathrow Terminal 5 2016–2017
Heathrow Express Class 387-1.png

Past fleet

Refurbished standard class interior on a Class 332
Refurbished first class interior on a Class 332

Until May 2018, Heathrow Express leased a singular Class 360 unit which operated the shuttle service between Heathrow Central and Heathrow Terminal 4.[22] After the withdrawal of the Class 360 unit, all Heathrow Express services were operated by Class 332 units built by CAF with traction equipment supplied by Siemens Transportation Systems. In 2019, it was announced that all the Class 332 units would be replaced by a fleet of twelve Class 387 units from Great Western Railway with GWR also managing their introduction and arrival.[13] The first Class 332 unit was withdrawn and scrapped in November 2020 and by 28 December 2020, all of the units were withdrawn.[23][24]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Built
 mph   km/h 
332 Heathrow Express 332007 at Paddington.jpg EMU 100 161 9 4 1997–1998
5 5
360/2 Desiro 26907836519 8ac0263c72 Hugh.jpg EMU 100 161 1 5 2002–2005

See also


  1. ^ "National Rail Enquiries - Heathrow Express". www.nationalrail.co.uk. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Heathrow Express service". Heathrow Express. 10 September 2019. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  3. ^ Fender, Keith (February 2014). "Heathrow's Billion Pound Railway". Modern Railways. Key Publishing. pp. 52–57.
  4. ^ Peracha, Qasim (13 February 2022). "A tunnel collapse at Heathrow nearly ruined the airport and a Tube line". MyLondon. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  5. ^ "New Heathrow Service From Central London". New York Times. 22 February 1998. Archived from the original on 12 December 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Heathrow Express takes off". BBC News. 23 June 1998. Archived from the original on 20 December 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  7. ^ Clark, Andrew (7 July 2003). "BAA's Paddington check-in faces axe". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  8. ^ Fox, Peter (March 1998). "Heathrow Express Starts Public Service". Today's Railways UK. Platform 5 Publishing Limited. pp. 27–29.
  9. ^ "Heathrow Connect close to takeoff". Railway Gazette. 24 June 2019. Archived from the original on 24 June 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  10. ^ "TfL to operate Heathrow Connect services ahead of Elizabeth line opening". Transport for London (Press release). Archived from the original on 17 December 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  11. ^ a b Caswell, Mark (26 August 2022). "Elizabeth Line to offer direct services from Heathrow to central London from November". Business Traveller. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  12. ^ "GWR to manage Heathrow Express service". Railway Gazette International. Archived from the original on 3 June 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  13. ^ a b c "Heathrow Express service confirmed to at least 2028". www.heathrowexpress.com. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  14. ^ "GWR to manage Heathrow Express operations". International Railway Journal. 28 March 2018. Archived from the original on 13 November 2020. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  15. ^ "Heathrow Express times". Heathrow Express. 2016. Archived from the original on 16 November 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  16. ^ "UK News in Brief". Railway Herald. Scunthorpe. 29 June 2010. p. 6. Archived from the original on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  17. ^ "Heathrow Express Class | Onboard Experience". www.heathrowexpress.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  18. ^ "Heathrow Express Business Class | Business Travel | Heathrow Express". www.heathrowexpress.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  19. ^ "Single & Return Train Tickets To Heathrow | Heathrow Express". www.heathrowexpress.com. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  20. ^ "Today's the day we're rolling out our new Heathrow Express fleet!". Heathrow Express. Archived from the original on 29 December 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Heathrow Express unveils images of new fleet". Business Traveller. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Heathrow Express livery for Connect 360". The Railway Magazine. No. 1312. August 2010. p. 72.
  23. ^ "First of the Heathrow Class 332s is scrapped". Rail. No. 920. 16 December 2020. p. 27.
  24. ^ "Today we're saying farewell to our Class 332 trains". Twitter. Heathrow Express. Archived from the original on 28 December 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.

Further reading

  • "Heathrow Express starts running public services to Airport Junction". RAIL. No. 323. EMAP Apex Publications. 28 January – 10 February 1998. p. 6. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • Haigh, Phil (11–24 March 1998). "Take the FastTrain for Heathrow". RAIL. No. 326. EMAP Apex Publications. pp. 58–62. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • "Heathrow Express starts direct service to airport". RAIL. No. 333. EMAP Apex Publications. 17–30 June 1998. p. 17. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

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